WOLF CREEK (TV SERIES)
Directors: Tony Tilse (5 episodes), Greg McLean (2 episode) / Writers: Felicity Packard & Peter Gawker / Cast: John Jarratt, Lucy Fry, Dustin Clare, Jessica Tovey, Fletcher Humphrys, Deborah Mailman, Jake Ryan, Richard Cawthorne, Eddie Baroo, Matt Levett.
Body Count: 24
TV was the new movies in the 2000s, with bigger budgets, drawn out arcs sucking in squillions of viewers that your favourite movie could never. Legal dramas, police procedurals, mafia families, drug dealers, vampire hunters, and trundling along at the rear, like the runt of the horror litter it’s often seen as, slasher tales.
First came Harper’s Island, then Scream – The TV Series, and the risible Scream Queens, the subtley titled Slasher, and now from down under, Wolf Creek.
On the back of the pair of brutal homegrown Aussie flicks, which chronicled the never ending killing spree of the outback’s answer to Freddy Krueger, Mick Taylor, as he raped, pillaged, and knifed nubile tourists who ventured beyond the city limits. Based on the real crimes of backpacker murderer Ivan Milat, Wolf Creek‘s gritty and repellent presentation of vulnerable outsiders thrown into a truly nightmarish situation resulted in a film even I found too intense to return to.
At the end of Wolf Creek 2 in 2013, Mick once again evaded capture and death and lived to hunt another day. The TV series starts with Taylor doing what he does so well: Killing. Selecting the American Thorogood family, who unwisely park their huge RV at a billabong where pre-teen son Ross is almost chomped by a saltwater crocodile, Mick shoots the reptile and is invited to supper. While Mom and Dad chatter, 19-year-old daughter Eve finds their guest a bit much and goes to lie down with some music.
Mick makes quick work of the parents and little brother, and goes after Eve, who, as a committed athlete, bolts for her life, but is shot down in the distance. Unable to find her body, raspy-voiced Mick chalks it up to croc bait and burns down the RV and disposes of all evidence of murder. Eve is rescued by some birdwatchers the next day.
Detective Sullivan Hill is assigned to the case and carries an ever-growing folder of possible crimes committed by the anonymous psycho in the outback. His attempts to put Eve on a plane back to the US are foiled when she runs away, steals the folder, buys a van and takes off in the direction of the crime.
Over the next few episodes, Eve follows Mick’s trail of murder around the desolate outback of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, while Hill follows her. She befriends a stray dog (named ‘Dog’) and finds herself in a series of bizarre and deadly situations, from being arrested for possession of weed (which was left in the van she bought by its previous owner), escaping prison, stealing cash and a gun from a biker gang, facing off a would-be rapist, solving a murder, and researching Mick’s previous murders. Each episode has a small arc within the greater story, as Eve goes from teary victim to woman warrior.
Of course, this journey is anything but smooth: Eve steps in bear-traps, is attacked by horny blokes at least twice, bitten by a venomous snake, and almost murdered by a crazy subterranean dweller. She also finds time to go all Daniel LaRusso with an outback saviour, who teacher her the aboriginal way of throwing a spear – something that’ll come in handy later, of course.
Original creator Greg McLean declared that Wolf Creek in this incarnation is less about Mick than it is Eve, and, wisely, the killer is limited in his appearances, cropping up here and there, stalking and killing a few poor folks as his and Eve’s paths grow ever closer to crossing: After a couple of episodes, he is aware someone has survived and is out to find him, he murders her would-be rapist, they ask about one another at the same roadhouse, with Hill just a heartbeat behind.
Elsewhere, the hoodwinked bikers are chasing her, allowing for an amazingly funny interchange when one of them catches up with her, proclaiming he needs a woman to give him kids instead of killing her. The Wolf Creek movies featured generous slabs of dark humour from Mick, but additional skits from background players here do a lot to endear the viewer to the production.
As things wrap up in the final two episodes (of a perfectly pitched six), Eve tracks Taylor to a drinking hole, which also – a little too conveniently – is frequented by a mad local known as Jesus, who is revealed to be Ben, only survivor of the first movie. Weird that they never ran into one another? She is finally able to put a lid on the biker situation, and follows clues left by Mick to lead her to the Wolf Creek Crater and then his lair.
The only arguable flaw at this juncture is the appearance of Mick’s backstory in black and white flashbacks to his childhood, which serve as the starting point to his murderous career. It denigrates his repulsive character to some degree, almost drawing sympathy from the audience, and aligning him even closer to Freddy Krueger than before, as he appears behind Eve with a few witty remarks at his disposal, further cementing the similarity.
So it comes down to survivor versus legendary maniac in a final showdown that seems over a little too soon, and lacks an amount of finality that points towards a second series in the future – but how can Mick survive what Eve finally does to him?
Much IMDb crying occurred over the series being too slow, Eve not being ‘right’ to take on Mick, and him not being in it enough. However, keeping the tempo of the films over almost five hours is never likely to work and would not be sustainable, and largely physically impossible for the characters. It was 100% the right decision to keep Taylor in the shadows as much as possible. Eve is also the perfect opponent – an outsider in every possible way, a recovering opiate addict, and an unlikely survivor.
Easily the best slasher series on virtually every level, from the lush production values, use of the agoraphobic Australian landscape, where, despite so much space, there’s still nowhere you can run. Jarratt, Fry, and the impossibly handsome Clare all put in excellent performances, and every bit-parter makes an impression, Dog included. Given this was almost the 700th slasher ‘thing’ I’ve seen, for me to find it so fresh and binge-watch over two days underscores just how much I loved Wolf Creek. So great.
P.S., that full frontal nudity? It’s a guy.
Blurbs-of-interest: Jarratt also featured in Next of Kin and Needle.